Consolidating Web 2.0 Services, anyone?

I have profiles on both LinkedIn and XING. And lately, I discovered Facebook, so I created a third profile there as well. And then there are half a dozen web forums here and there that I have a profile with as well.

Wouldn't it be nice to create and update a profile in one place, then have it available from whatever the Web 2.0 networking site du jour is? 

Each of these sites has their own messaging system. No, they don't forward me messages, they just send out notifications, since they want me to spend valuable online time with their websites, not anybody else's.

Wouldn't it be nice to have all Web 2.0 site's messaging systems aggregated as simple emails to my personal mailbox of choice?

I also like Plazes.com, and I update my whereabouts and what I do there once in a while. I can also tell Facebook what I'm doing right now. And now, surprise, a colleague tells me that this Twitter (sorry, I don't have a Twitter profile yet...) thing is real cool and I should use it to tell the world what I'm doing right now. That would be the third Web 2.0 service where I can type in what I do and let my friends know.

Wouldn't it be... You get the picture.

I think it would be real nice if Web 2.0 services could sit together at one table, agree on some open standards for Web 2.0 style profiles, messaging, microblogging, geo-tagging etc., and then connect with each other, so one change in one profile is reflected in the other as well, so one message sent to me from one forum reaches my conventional mail box and so one action I post to one microblogging site shows up on Plazes and Facebook as well.

I know I'm asking for a lot: After all, much of the business models of Web 2.0 companies actually rely on collecting all that data from their users and figure out how to monetize it. But on the other hand, as a user of such services, I'd like to have a nice user experience and updating three profiles is not fun if I were to do that seriously.

Therefore, I think one of the following will happen:

  • Web 2.0 companies will consolidate in the sense of being merged into very few, but global uber-companies that own all business profiles, all geo-tagging stuff, etc. This is probably why Google is buying some Web 2.0 company on a weekly basis. Maybe I should by XING stock and wait for them to be acquired by LinkedIn etc. but maybe I'm an investment sissy...
  • Web 2.0 Meta-Companies will emerge that leverage Web 2.0 APIs (or mimick users through traditional HTTP) and offer Meta-Services. I'd love to got to, say, a MetaProfiles.com, set up a real good and thorough profile of my life, then let it automatically export it to LinkedIn, XING and whatnot.com and I'd be a happy person. Let me know if you happen to know such a service.
    The closest thing to such a service is actually Facebook: Since it's not just a social website, but a real application platform, it has the potential to provide meta-services for any other Web 2.0 sites out there. I love being able to pull in data from Plazes, del.icio.us etc. into my Facebook profile and have it all in one place. I love the "My Profiles" app that lets me show off my dozen or so profiles, blogs, etc. in one single list.
  • Since both of the above are quite inevitable, eventually the losers remaining companies will sit down and start agreeing on unified and open standards for Web 2.0 centric data exchange. We've seen this with many other open standards, so why not the same for personal profiles, geodata etc.?

Meanwhile, I'll check out some of the APIs out there. Maybe I can put together a sync script or something similar to help me across the turbulences of Web 2.0 tryouts.

But first, I'll tryout Twitter. Since a couple of friends are using it already, I feel some social pressure 2.0 building up...

Comments:

As long as we have dealt with Web 2.0 service, we have also dealt with lock-in and user capture. You will note that many web 2.0 apps are happily \*importing\* data sources, while making \*exports\* outrageously difficult, if not impossible.

Why? Business model: most web 2.0 business models circle around advertising of some sorts. Releasing data (and therefore allowing re-use at another site) means less revenue stream for them.

Posted by Gerald Beuchelt on August 07, 2007 at 10:48 AM CEST #

Wouldn't it be great if, after such a protocol stack exists, you could put your own data on your own server and still be inside all those networks?

That they "own" my data is enough of a reason for me to refuse to work with such services in the first place - if I could interoperate with them, they would at least get the conversations (incl. twitter-style data if broadcast to one of their users) from me.

I guess, something like that could be built on top of Project Liberty (http://www.projectliberty.org), which implements some of the same ideas.

Posted by Patrick Georgi on August 07, 2007 at 12:20 PM CEST #

Gerald, Patrick, thank you for your comments!

Is locking in of user data going to provide a long-term business foundation for Web 2.0 companies? I don't know. For instance, I love Feedburner's services, but I still get to keep my original data, which is my original RSS feed. In the context of business profile services, a web 2.0 company could let me keep my profile data on my own server, hosted somewhere, connected through Patrick's service, and still provide valuable services around my profile.

Maybe we'll see a huge wave of user data decentralization (everyone hosting their own) after the current wave of user centralization (everyone giving their data to the Googles of the world).

Posted by Constantin on August 08, 2007 at 04:32 AM CEST #

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